Sita smiled, as from her window in her royal chamber, she glanced out, to see the entire kingdom of Ayodhya alit. Her eyes danced at the sight of the diyas the residents had lit to celebrate the occasion Deepawali. And to welcome them home, after their fourteen year long exile, one that to Sita, seemed like an entire lifetime. But in the end, we all come home. To people, places, emotions. And so had Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. To Ayodhya.
Her Ayodhya. Where she’d come as a new bride. Fourteen long years ago. Leaving behind her identity as King Janaka’s daughter to embrace her new one as Rama’s wife. Tearfully, her father had bid her farewell. and had explained to her what her roles an responsibilities in the royal household of Ayodhya would be. As Rama’s wife, you are his Ardhangini, her father had explained. Better half. The wedding vows, he’d explained, make you one. From now, it is your duty to equally partake in your husband’s joys and his sorrows. She hadn’t been able to revel in marital bliss very long, though. For a couple of days into her wedded life, her husband, Ram had announced that he was embarking on a 14 year old exile. His stepmother, Kaikayee had demanded that from her husband, Dasrath, Rama’s father. In return for two wishes he’d granted her a while ago. Dasrath had no option but to concede, and Rama, the ever dutiful son, had agreed to obey his father’s wishes. Lakshmana, Ram’s younger brother had announced that he would accompany his brother too. And Sita couldn’t even bear to think of letting Rama live the ascetic life in the forest, while she feasted on royal silks and jewels. After all, her marital vows had included being their for him, in good times and bad. And so, without an inch of hesitation or doubt, she too had decided to go, well aware of the hardships that awaited her. Yet happy to face them all with her husband and brother-in-law.
It felt like just yesterday that she’d been glancing at her reflection in this very mirror, in her royal chamber. Yet, paradoxically, an entire lifetime had passed. So much had happened. From the royal palace of Ayodhya, they’d gone to live in jungles. And then when she’d been forcefully abducted by Ravana, and flown all the way to Lanka. Spending her days in the Ashoka Vatika, in misery and pain. Spending each moment, like a year. Waiting anxiously and patiently for her Ram. And her prayers had yielded fruit. He’d come. Guided by the ever faithful Hanuman, Ram had brought an entire army of monkeys to her rescue and defeated the evil Ravana. And by then, their exile was over. And they were back home in Ayodhya. Rama, the rightful heir to the throne of Ayodhya, and Sita, his queen, As Sita glanced at herself, she allowed for a moment, her pride to take the better of her. Occasionally, thoughts of her past did torment her. It’s all over Sita, it’s all over. Goodness has reigned triumphant, and it’s all going to be okay. Forget the past. she told herself. You have a very bright future to look forward to now. The bad days are gone, Gone forever. She told herself.
Lost in her thoughts, she was interrupted by her sister in law, Urmila, walking into her room.
“I missed you while you were gone, didi. You know, I haven’t seen the residents of Ayodhya this happy in years. Every year, Deepawali has been so grim, and…”. She stopped midway, as she looked at Sita dressed in fineries. Her older sister who by marriage had also become her sister-in-law. “How lovely you look. Like a newlywed bride”
“That’s too kind of you, Urmila. Sita chuckled. I was a newly wed some light years ago. I feel old now, Urmi”.
“Nonsense”, Urmila stepped forward, to dab some of the kohl off her eyes on to her finger and dab it on the back of Sita’s ear. A grandmother’s tale, of the age old Indian belief that dabbing kohl behind the ear of a beautiful woman kept the evil eye away. “You’re evergreen, didi. And just look at the glow on your face”.
Sita blushed. She knew that the glow wasn’t one of youth. It was one that represented the phase of womanhood she was in. On the verge of one life creating another. She hadn’t announced it yet, but she would. The royal heir, next in line to the throne of Ayodhya, was taking form in her womb. And would soon come into this world. Sita felt excited about the next few months, about entering and embracing motherhood. She’d already nurtured dreams for her son or daughter, lovingly. So what if I wasn’t able to partake in the royal household as a newly wed queen. My child shall. Shall rightfully be groomed within these palace walls, to be the next prince or princess of Ayodhya. A privilege that it deserves. And I know Rama will want our children to have the best too. He’ll be a great father.
Once again lost in here thoughts, Sita was brought back to the present by the window pane in her room banging against the wall, smashing the glass into pieces. Sita’s chambermaid ran to shut it. But it was too late. Sita flinched, as bits of glass flew all over the room. Fortunately, all the three women in the room escaped unhurt.
“I don’t what this is, Rani. Strange, a storm should hit Ayodhya at this hour”. It isn’t even the weather for it. I hope it’s not indicative of a bad omen”, the chambermaid murmured, as she bent to pick up the pieces.
“Oh, I wish you did think before you speak, you silly girl”, Urmila chided the chambermaid. “It’s just a temporary breeze that’ll pass. Lord Rama and Sita are back in Ayodhya, what could possibly go wrong? Right didi?” she looked at Sita, who had a stunned expression on her face. She stood frozen, her eyes not blinking. Staring at the shattered glass pieces on the floor.
Urmila nudged her in the elbow. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing.” Sita responded. “Nothing at all, I’m fine”
But her insides shuddered. This incident had suddenly thrown up old memories. She remembered her wedding night. A similar thing had happened. The pane had banged, thanks to a light breeze that had become a gale, out of nowhere. And immediately she’d felt her heart sink. Almost as if her sixth sense was telling her that something was wrong. And the day after, they’d set out on their exile.
And today, after fourteen years, she experienced that same tinge again. Her emotions played turmoil, as she put together every force in her body to try and ignore what she was undergoing. To ignore the ominous feeling that harangued her. The one that told her something was amiss. “Ignore it, Sita’, you’re being superstitious. It’s just coincidence. Nothing is wrong, and nothing will be wrong. She told herself. She distracted herself by looking at her reflection in the mirror, and adding final touches to her hair. It’d been years since she’d dressed up. Today, she genuinely did want to look her best when Rama saw her.
Meanwhile, Lord Rama was in his personal chambers, surrounded by his courtiers, “So, how has everyone taken our return from our exile? Is everyone happy?”
Unanimously, they answered that all the citizens of Ayodhya were genuinely happy to have their king and queen back.
All, except one, who sat rather quiet in the corner. His silence didn’t go unnoticed by Rama.
“Tell me, why don’t you answer” he pointed his question at the only one in the room who had a grim expression, amidst a sea of smiling faces.
“Sir, everyone is happy. Everyone, except….”
“Except, last night, I heard a dhobi(washerman) shouting at his wife.”